Cheap games are gems for lazy playing days

Danny Andrews

Danny Andrews

Everyone needs some love, and much like the world’s oldest profession, it’s available in every price range. And due to dozens of new releases this holiday season, many titles get pushed off the shelf to make room. These hidden gems lie on the mythical “clearance rack,” and games sit, waiting to be plucked, like juicy apples.

The first forbidden fruit is John Woo’s Stranglehold for Xbox 360. Mr. Woo’s first foray into video games continues the story of detective Inspector Tequila from John Woo’s Hardboiled, because if there’s one thing John Woo likes more than his own name, it’s gun-toting, nigh-indestructible cops.

Tequila’s path of vengeance takes him through Hong Kong, Chicago and paths of hundreds of identical enemy goons. The story exists to give a reason to the mass amounts of collateral damage and bloodshed that ensues from Tequila’s brand of justice. Everything can be destroyed in a furious spray of bullets, from the wooden tables the bad guys use as cover to the dinosaur skeletons in the Chicago Natural History museum.

Chow Yung Fat reprises his role as Tequila and lends his face and voice, adding serious weight to the otherwise action-flick dialog. Something about seeing Li Mu Bai from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sliding across tables, bars and riding food carts in glorious slow motion is extremely satisfying.

While the game didn’t get Gears of War huge, it is a largely enjoyable way to kill a few hours on a slow afternoon and is definitely worth the $20 fee.

The old saying “never judge a book by its cover” holds doubly true for games like Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbados’ Treasure for Wii.

Sporting a golden, flying monkey on the cover and a main character with hair large enough to house a flock of songbirds, Zak and Wiki: Regrettably Convoluted Title looks like a game better suited for diapers than diplomas. However, the game requires serious smarts to play, especially the “I-can-solve-a-Rubik’s-Cube-in-ten-minutes” variety of smarts.

Zack and Wiki lulls the player into a false sense of security early on, with puzzles no more difficult than “pick up the saw” and “cut down the tree.” But once past the first boss stage, the developers decided to punish anyone who picks up the controller. Where the in-game hints actually helped, they soon digressed into a form of mockery not seen since grade school. Imagine a bully chanting “loser” over and over while his victim lies face down in mud.

“Remember that bats are wild animals,” chirped the adorable hint-giving rabbit pirate. Apparently that “hint” explains that because bats are wild animals, they should be afraid of fire. By bringing a torch into the cave, they might be startled and fly near enough to be transformed by a magical, ringing bell into umbrellas. These umbrellas would then be used to float gently down the cliff to the next level. I cannot stress enough that everything in this paragraph is absolutely true.

Steep learning curve aside, Zack and Wiki is an addictively fun game. With a fun story that includes pirate children, mechanical monkeys and possessed treasure, it hugs the line of difficult and fun. Except for that $@#&ing hint bunny.